There's a lot of great things about this opportunity in Cedar City, but one that tops the list is going to see the productions here. I've been lucky in that I get to see all six (I guess the other playwrights have had schedule conflicts or the shows have been sold out).
I already talked about the non-Shakespeare ones (Pride and Prejudice, The 39 Steps, and Great Expectations) (on that last one, I wanted to add that I'm tired of musicals that spell out character motivations in song. And I know that's pretty much every musical, but it really irked me to have to listen to Miss Havisham sing about her grudge and her plans for the children in an overly long demented song), so let me talk a bit about the Shakespeare ones.
Macbeth was Tuesday and Much Ado About Nothing was last night. Tonight I'll wrap it up with The Merchant of Venice (I'm surprised they're not doing Midsummer this fall, since they've gone with an M theme for the season).
This production of Macbeth was not my favorite. It was bloody and creepy and played up the horror movie aspect of the story (with an excellent soundtrack!). Chuck has complained about how young the Macbeth and Lady M are, but that didn't bother me. I've always preferred them to be young, hot-blooded, and, well, sexy. This production wasn't a play about ambition or greed or sexual politics or even predestination. This was a play about crazy people. Which, to me, is a cop-out. It lets the actors and the audience both off the hook, and I was disappointed. I think they chose style over substance, made it very cinematic (the blood is startling, and I liked how they handled the final fight scene), and I was sad to see so many of the issues disappear in the sound and fury.
I've never seen a production of Macbeth that I've loved. I hope for one still, especially since every time I visit the play I discover again how many fantastic lines and phrases live in it.
Oh, also? I didn't like the Lady M. She was, in short, not believable. She was very much acting. I think the direction contributed to that, but I also think there are other actresses here this season who would have been better at the part.
I'm not saying you shouldn't see this production - I do think it's worthwhile, especially if you haven't seen Macbeth before. However, I would encourage you to go into this one knowing that you're going to see a horror story.
Much Ado, on the other hand, was really fun (in a good way). It helps that it's one of my favorites, but it was also a solid production. There are some fun sight gags (and, if you see it, you'll catch my pun there), the relationships between the characters are strong, and the audience had a lot of fun watching it. Which really was remarkable, given the weather.
During the pre-show greenshow, the wind picked up and blew in ominous-looking clouds. The audience seemed nervous, especially as lightening and thunder kicked in along with a sudden drop in temperature. The Shakespeare productions here are performed on an excellent replica of the Globe Theatre which includes an open roof. Everyone was waiting for the announcement move us to the nearby Auditorium Theater (where my play is being performed and where they move rained-out performances), but the show went on outdoors.
I was pleased to discover that my seat was under the balcony, so I was protected from the rain when it did start to fall. The storms tend to be brief here, so they continued with the show and the first rain stopped after about 10 minutes. The wind had finally died down, which made it not quite so cold (I was eyeing and envying the long leather coat Don John was wearing!). The actors slipped a little on the wet stage, but started moving a little more cautiously. Still, the thunder and lightening kept up, and everyone was a little wary that the rain would start again.
And it did, but first there was one of the perfect moments of theater that made me so happy I was there that night:
In the scene following the upset wedding, Beatrice and Benedick have that lovely scene where they talk of their own feelings. As Beatrice sat on the edge downstage, Benedick stood on the other side and said, "I do love nothing in the world so well as you: is not that strange?"
And right then, with impeccable timing, thunder rumbled across the sky.
The audience cracked up. Benedick, barely missing a beat, then raised his hands in a "Heaven, amen!" gesture to the sky. The audience burst out in a second round of laughter, and Beatrice lost it herself, hiding her face upstage until she and the audience got control of themselves.
The rain came back again twice more, and they stopped the show for about fifteen minutes right before the last act so the audience and the actors could wait until the eaves for the shower to pass. Some people left, but those who stayed were so enamored of the show and the experience. The stagehands came out to squeegee off the boards for the actors, and the audience gave them a hearty cheer. When the funeral scene began and a sound effect of rain came up with the lights, the audience cracked up again. I don't think the audience would have been so kind if this had happened during Macbeth the night before. I was glad to be there, I enjoyed the show, and I was really glad my seat had shelter.